Posted on 01/24/2019 at 5:23pm

Heading to Moab, Utah to see the sights and perhaps do some painting in the mountains, we left from Steamboat Springs, CO and began driving early on a beautiful fall day. Our sturdy stead was our brand new 4 wheel drive truck, and with a full tank of gas, we felt confident about getting there before sunset. The roads are well maintained and there is little or no traffic heading into the remote west. The GPS gave the best route to enjoy some of the late fall countryside.

Miles and miles of flat land with scrubby high desert growth with nothing but a narrow two-lane road created anticipation but caused me to be very glad we had not planned any stops on our route. As we drove far from civilization we felt as though we were in the middle of no-where. Many lonely hours later we were shocked by a very loud smashing sound coming from the engine. Just like it had been hit at high speed by shattering glass! We slowed down, but saw nothing in the rear-view mirror, so we kept driving as the truck seemed to be running fine and we were not close to anything that could help us if something was wrong. Many more miles flew by us and we had all but forgotten about the loud sound. We both needed a break from the ride to stretch our legs so we pulled to the side of the road. I was very happy to climb down out of the cab and walk around a bit, but suddenly I heard a sound like water running. I noticed a liquid was pouring on to the ground below the truck. “Oh no! This does not look good!” I hollered. We were many miles from any city, and because there was no Cell phone service, and no one was driving by who could help us, we felt like we had no choice but to continue driving as far as we could go before our radiator was dry and it would no longer cool the engine of the new truck. Nervously driving many more miles we were very glad to coast into a very small town called Rangely, CO where our cell service worked once again and proceeded to call the 800 Service help number for our vehicle. Many cell phone calls to different people proved that they were going to be very helpful, but only if we could figure out a way to get ourselves to Grand Junction, CO. That was the next city with a dealership we needed for repairs, but it was over a hundred miles away over treacherous steep mountains. They told us we would need a flat-bed tow truck to carry this new high profile vehicle there. Hours of negotiating on the phone with customer service and they were finally willing to pay this small town repair shop that we had recently limped into, to take us all the way to Grand Junction on ‘their’ very nice flatbed tow truck.

Time flew by, but well before dark, the nice small town repairman asked if I was ready to get in the cab of his flatbed. I asked if could ride right where I was, in the passenger seat of the new truck that was going to be towed, way up high on the bed of that tow truck! He told me he had only one other person who asked to do that, and they really enjoyed the ride. The driver was all alone in his cab as we headed down the road, with Dan and I both riding up so high in the cab on top of the flatbed that was carrying us. We were up so high and going so fast that Dan could not help but keep his hands on the wheel and his foot on the break even though he could not control anything. It was very funny when he kept trying to steer around the curves in the road, I kept saying to him, “Look around, relax, you can not control the truck!” The view from up where we were was magnificent! As we road around sharp curves through Douglass Pass through the steep mountain range, amazing colorful flora and fauna was a gift we were allowed to see because of where we had ended up riding.

The parts were not available for the new truck at the dealership, so our plans to go to Moab, UT did not happen. We had to wait for days for the parts to come in. My time in Grand Junction was spent going to antique stores, rock shops and just enjoying the town as I listened to the people talk about what it had been as the years have gone by. It was where two rivers meet, the Grand River and the Gunnison River, and the Ute Indians called the place their home until in 1881 when they were removed to a reservation. The architecturally beautiful old train station built during the golden glory of an era of western growth and rail travel stands ghostly vacant. I enjoyed my visit there.

Colorado has shown me more of its beauty. Utah will be a future journey.


Posted on 11/30/2017 at 4:00pm

Dear Artist friends, This story is for you, I know that you too have stories about when you decided to be an artist. This is mine. Both my father and my mother painted. Once they painted the same orchid from their wedding bouquet, and those amazingly beautiful but quite different oil paintings still hang in my Dad’s home. Five children caused their lives to take a different path. My cousin told me not long ago, that he remembered something my father said when I was still a little child after he asked me a dreaded question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I said, “An artist!” He hollered back, very mad at me, “No! You can not be an artist!”
It did not work. I became an artist. As an early artistic genius, it was very difficult to push back the fear of failure after being told that I was a failure from the beginning by my educators and my father. Undiagnosed attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, as well as being left-handed did not help.
I studied the master’s paintings from art books and copied paintings to imitate their strokes in my early years. Composition and perspective came easy in my own work. Color-mixing was a no-brainer. Where to go with my prolific ability was, and still is, an ongoing challenge.

Then: Art-Shows, Museums, Art-Fairs, Fine Art Auctions, Competitions, and brick and mortar Art Galleries.

Now: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Artwork Archive, American Artwork, and many more new ones every day.

I have done them all and still work hard every day just trying to keep up with it all. I think I now understand why my Dad was angry and afraid for me. ‘Artist’ is something you become, and then you are for a lifetime, there was no turning back and I think he understood more than me the sacrifices I would need to make.

As an artist, I wonder if you too have had the insecurities I have had of wondering if you have chosen this career, or if it chose you. Hang in there. It can be one of the very best, hardest, but most rewarding jobs out there.


“Dusk in Venice”  Oil on Linen  2017 18″x30″



Posted on 06/17/2017 at 4:18pm

Milkweed Blooming

A single butterfly with faded, worn-looking wings fluttered in front of me as I took my morning nature walk on a cool, misty-morning early this spring. I watched as it landed on one of the newly emerging 4 inch tall, thick, young shoots of milkweed plants beginning to grow. Looking closely I was shocked to see it was a Monarch Butterfly, but there was no bright, orange-golden glow that glistens in the sun on the velvety surface that I had always noticed on their delicate wings. It had somehow faded to a dull, cloudy, almost colorless shade of grey.

I watched mesmerized for several minutes after I recognized what she was, another creature that is facing undeniable changes in their environment. Shocked at her sad-looking condition, I stood quietly as she ignored my presence and fluttered directly to one of the small newly emerging milkweed plants, lighted upon one of its perfectly formed, blueish-green, thick leaves for a few brief seconds, then continued to another freshly emerging plant just like it, ignoring all the other spring weeds and grasses growing everywhere alongside the path where I was walking. She was going from one to the next of the small, non-blooming young milkweed plants. I was mesmerized.

What was she doing? Why was this faded, old-looking Monarch Butterfly going to each one of these very young plants and just touching each of them? The next day I walked back to the wild garden I have created once again on an acre of land by mowing narrow paths through portions of it, and there she was again, the only butterfly anywhere around doing the exact same thing she was doing the day before. I could only guess what she was doing, but it seemed very necessary to her.

Will she be carrying location information to her species, that there are healthy, wild, milkweed plants growing here? The next day on my return to the garden, she was no longer there, and I have not seen another Monarch Butterfly in the past few months since that early spring day. Summer is already heating up in Tennessee. The milkweed plants growing in my yard that the old Monarch Butterfly carefully touched, are now several feet tall and starting to get their lush fragrant blooms. I wonder if those sturdy young shoots could feel her delicate legs touching each of them as they were beginning to grow. Now, I am here painting these wonderful plants and I can feel their power as they stand tall next to me.

I look forward to seeing all the beautiful, delicate young butterflies as they flutter past me going through my wild garden of native plants later this summer. I realize the wildlife in our world is so threatened by our ignorance. I have heard that milkweed is very important to the life-cycle of Monarch Butterflies. We mow thousands of acres into lawns, to create perfect carpets of green. We spray and pull the weeds that will continue to limit nature’s diversity, and these wonderful living creations have all but disappeared from much of the landscape. I did not plant these milkweed plants. They simply started growing when I stopped mowing part of the yard. I hope she went to tell other Monarch Butterflies that these healthy plants are growing here, and I wish I could tell her, “I will always let the milkweed plants grow for you and your species.”

“Milkweed” 10″x10″ Oil on linen Copyright 2017



Posted on 07/15/2016 at 1:18pm

The artists that join me on adventures to interesting and beautiful destinations to create and paint are at many different levels of experience. Studio artists who have worked for many years from photographs and those who have never tried painting directly from nature will have the most success and fun if they can let go of preconceived notions when they do plein air with oils.

One technique I use and share in my workshops is how I begin a painting. I try to capture my strongest dark values first, and then once I have my composition loosely worked up with the help of special artist tools and various tricks-of-the-trade, I can begin to work my subject’s detail by still continuing in the value study only, by then adding some highlights with additional tools.

Working quickly, I am creating a balance in the details through my value study right from the start. That early work on the painting helps me to do even the most difficult compositions with relative ease of accomplishment. Working the first 15 to 30 minutes this way gives me much better results later in the painting.

Often my students will want to dive right into using a palette of full color, trying to mix deep values that are difficult to achieve  because of their intensity. In order to hold down the values within a complicated composition, I have found it is best to hold back on most color for a little while.

I begin a painting using a mixture of French Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red, the deepest I can find, and in 15 to 30 minutes my plein air composition begins to take shape. I then squeeze out some Cadmium Yellow, a touch of Thalo Blue, Alizeran Crimson, and a few greens. (I like Sap Green, Veridian, and Winsor Yellow.)  Lots of color variety within a painting is great, but I try to hold back on most of those until I am sure my composition and value study are ready for me to plow ahead!

My experience painting plein air for over 30 years has taught me that if I go to full color mixing too soon, I sometimes lose my way, and the values can weaken quickly. As I start trying to bring my darkest values back again, areas thicken when I would prefer those to remain thin.

Below is a plein air painting that I worked on one afternoon this week. The Tennessee sun was low enough in the sky to let me work without the heat, humidity, and bugs bothering me too much. Plein Air is fun if you have determination, an adventurous spirit, and the ability to let go if preconceived notions of how to paint in challenging surroundings. Good luck!




“Summer Garden House” Oil on Linen 8″x10″ Plein Air Copyright 2016 SRS


I welcome questions and comments.


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